Our favourite shops to safely visit in the recently reopened Distillery District
It’s your best bet for a socially distanced Saturday
Many Torontonians have spent the pandemic hibernating in their immediate communities, only venturing to their nearest grocery stores and green spaces. But now that the city has officially entered Stage Three, residents can feel comfortable finally starting to safely re-explore some of the city’s most fascinating neighbourhoods. And since far-flung holidays and epic cross-border trips are effectively cancelled for the foreseeable future, it’s the perfect time to reignite a love affair with your city. The ideal place to start? The Distillery District, where the extra-wide, car-free cobblestone streets make for stress-free social distancing.
Not only is it the city’s most picturesque, historic ‘hood, The Distillery District has always been a hub for creative, independent businesses—from microbreweries shilling organic ales to local artisans peddling handcrafted wares and indie cafés offering mouth-watering alternatives to Starbucks. Here are a few of our favourite recently reopened places to make sure you check out on your next outing:
IZUMI Sake Brewery
Eastern North America’s first sake brewery, IZUMI uses spring water from northern Ontario to make its selection of freshly pressed, unpasteurized and unfiltered sake. We love their pre-mixed Yuzu-Lime Sake Collins, which is a bright, refreshing pre-mixed cocktail perfect for summer days at the park. Their store also sells a collection of artisanal grocery items, sake-infused skincare and gorgeous porcelain sakeware. Visitors can call ahead to place pickup orders. Ontariosake.com.
This sustainable clothing and accessories brand launched in 2007 and has been a Distillery District fixture for years. They’re currently producing popular linen masks in addition to their roster of breezy summer dresses, structured lightweight tops and waxed cotton totes that can carry any industrial-sized bottles of hand sanitizer. Their shop is currently open for browsing, accepting a limited numbers of customer inside. Hoibo.com.
The Distillery District’s Soma location was closed for three months, but reopened at the end of July, now with shorter hours. The go-to brand for all cacao snobs in the city, Soma makes everything from microbatch chocolate to truffles, cookies, toffee and mouth-watering gelato—all from their Parkdale chocolate factory. Grab their simple Twinkle Bar, with caramel chocolate and Newfoundland salt, for a midday shopping pick-me-up. Somachocolate.com.
Arvo Coffee Bar
Shopping is undeniably more enjoyable while sipping a fresh pourover blend or an oat milk latte made from extra-fine espresso. Indie coffee shop Arvo is now offering contactless pickup and pre-ordering, and has a distanced patio where you can enjoy one of their popular avocado or almond butter toasts. Arvocoffee.com.
Blackbird Vintage Finds
This eclectic shop has been a neighbourhood staple for almost a decade, offering up a mix of found vintage objects (like century-old typewriters or ancient signage) and cozy home goods and gifting items (scented candles, quirky cards, delicate jewellery). If you need to stock up on distanced birthday gifts, we recommend popping in—at least to pick up one of their hugely popular, recently restocked Cavallini puzzles. Blackbirdvintage.com.
Spirit of York Distillery
The neighbourhood’s newest on-site gin, vodka and whiskey distiller has your Covid cocktail and hand sanitizer needs covered. They recently opened a brand-new patio, where you can sip creations like the “Sorrel Distancing”, made with their rye whiskey, pineapple and lime juice, their house sorrel and angostura bitters. Spiritofyork.com.
Above is only a handful of the many unique local vendors and artisans that make up the vibrant area. They’re all going above and beyond to take your health and safety seriously, while helping Torontonians regain a sense of normalcy. And if you’re planning on shopping at all during the pandemic, we highly recommend sticking local. Check out the neighbourhood’s Instagram page to learn more.